Wednesday, January 31, 2007

daily happenings

-First things first: this morning I awoke with harmonies in my head. They were the leftovers from last evening's chamber music concert. This time, Brahms was the culprit. So there was nothing to do but pull out my dog-eared score of his G minor piano quartet and attempt the piano part. This tides me over until I get to my heavenly mansion where string players will greet me in the music salon. (Note: this is not proven doctrine, but imaginative stuff that is a comfort to me.)

-#1 Son and I headed out the driveway this morning and pointed the PT toward SUNY Potsdam. He had a lesson. I doled out the cold, hard cash to him in the car and excused myself to visit the library. I love libraries, you know. The treat that awaits me later this afternoon is to hoist four borrowed books onto my lap and read. The ability to read is such a rich gift.

-Chicken soup is simmering, filling the kitchen with its warm steam. Delivery is promised to a family who is fighting the flu. I put lots of love in my soup. To quote Marie Barone: "Meatballs: without the love, they are just a ball of meat."

-I drove to Crane again this afternoon. This time, I entered the building, strolled onto Snell stage, and accompanied a lovely, red-headed soprano in two French art songs.

-#1 Daughter baked dozens of heart-shaped sugar cookies this morning. We have the trappings to decorate them: white frosting, silver dragoons, multi-colored heart sprinkles, flaked coconut, and craisins.

-Since there is not a scheduled read-through of High Button Shoes this evening, I may challenge Friend #12 to a game of Upwords. Miraculously,our last game ended in a tie. I'm not satisfied with that kind of result.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

messages that stick

The junk mail folder in my email account is chock full as a gigabyte can be with messages I will never read, and will never regret not reading. On the kitchen counter are shiny flyers from local supermarkets which, although useful at the moment, will be obsolete in a week's time. Our family bulletin board is decked with ski-trip reminders, completed school reports, doctor and dentist appointment cards, maps outlined in colored pencil, and an invitation to an open house -all of which are important in their own way; all of which will be eventually forgotten in the onslaught of next season's business.
Tucked between the pages of an outdated journal, shelved upstairs near my bed, are papers that mean a lot to me. One is from an influential teacher; another from a life-long friend. Others are quick scribbles on post-it notes. Some are profound, not a few are plain silly. All of them strengthen my heart when I need a boost. This can be a mean world, so I can be forgiven for hoarding a little store of pick-me-ups.
The message that outlives all these is contained in the Book of Life. The more I seek it out, the more it fills me. I would be amiss if I didn't regularly tout its benefits. I challenged myself to expound upon the first passage I opened to this afternoon, and here you have it. The line that resounds in my heart? "....I have paid the price to set you free."
Try substituting your own name in the first line for a powerful application.

Pay attention, O Israel, for you are my servant. I, the LORD, made you, and I will not forget to help you. I have swept away your sins like the morning mists. I have scattered your offenses like the clouds. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free."

Isaiah 44:21-22 (New Living Translation)

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Eighth Wonder of the World

This month, our Middle East studies lead us to the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa. The United Arab Emirates (located on the Persian Gulf, roughly between Iran and Saudi Arabia) is a union of seven emirates, all of which have their own rags-to-riches story. There, oil is not only king, but also emperor, czar, and "god". One of the most unique of the emirates is Dubai, home of your typical Arab billionaire.
Check out this link to the Palm Jebel Ali, the largest man-made island in the world. If you want to be bowled over yet again, read the info about The World, now under construction. The 300 islands of this man-made archipelago will actually form a map of the world. According to National Geographic, entire islands will go for 30 million dollars each.
This is entirely amazing to me.

Friday, January 26, 2007

roses. just because...

steaming and pressing

The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn

Tell You a little story and it won't take long,
'Bout a lazy farmer who wouldn't hoe his corn.
The reason why I never could tell,
That young man was always well.

He planted his corn in the month of June.
By July it was up to his eyes.
Come September, came a big frost.
And all the young man's corn was lost.

His story, kith, had just begun.
Said: "Young man, have you hoed some corn?"
"Well I tried and I tried, and I tried in vain.
"But I don't believe I raised no grain."

He went down town to his neighbour's door.
Where he had often been before.
Sayin': "Pretty little miss, will you marry me?"
"Little miss what do you say?"

"Why do you come for me to wed?
"You, can't even make your own corn grain.
"Single I am, and will remain.
"A lazy man, I won't maintain."

He turned his back and walked away.
Sayin: "Little miss, you'll rue the day.
"You'll rue the day that you were born.
"For givin' me the devil 'cos I wouldn't hoe corn."

For Christmas, my brother gave me a 2-disc DVD of Allison Krauss and Union Station Live. Who is Allison Krauss? I didn't know then, but I do now.
This is my testimonial: here is great music by which to iron. A dozen dress shirts (sprinkled with Niagra spray starch and a touch of bluegrass) now hang smartly in the closet, thanks to Allison's angelic crooning. She can also fiddle a bunch quite nicely.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

summer weather

-The mercury huddles at minus thirteen this morning, and that's not including the wind chill factor. Furry frost has accumulated at the cracks of doors and light switch covers. (The latter phenomena cannot possibly be safe, but my family just labels me a worry-wart and reminds me that it's January.) Chilly drafts, like unseen ghosts sprung from nowhere, wend their way through the lower stratosphere of each room. Lap blankets are gear de riguer. The wood-stove is kept two degrees short of molten lava, with wood being thrown in like its going out of style.

-I have three giant loaves of whole-wheat bread in the oven, courtesy of my new Bosch universal kitchen mixer. Even the smell is healthy.

-We are learning about the concept of jihad this morning. I am not happy that this, the "sixth pillar of Islam", is alive and flourishing on this planet. Yet God sees and knows all, and He has not aborted His mission to this blue globe we call home. That gives me hope. My study of 2 Peter and its abundance of references to the End Times reminds me that the God of Creation has a plan. How shall we then live? (to borrow a good question from a respected Christian theologian.) I'll be pondering this for awhile.

-To demonstrate that I am not only spiritual, but also practical, we will be tackling some housework this afternoon. The thought of organizing drawers, cabinets, and closets is daunting. But I'll make the kids do it, and that is relieving. The role of delegating has its responsibilities, and I won't shirk them. I will give everything a once-over and white-glove treatment at the end of the day.

Enjoy a blessing for this day, courtesy of a Puritan that lived a few centuries ago:

If my life is to be a crucible amid burning heat, so be it, but do Thou sit at the furnace mouth to watch the ore that nothing be lost. If I sin wilfully, grievously, tormentedly, in grace take away my mourning and give me music; remove my sackcloth and clothe me with beauty; still my sighs and fill my mouth with song, then give me summer weather as a Christian.

Monday, January 22, 2007

reporting to class

I traversed the halls of the local music college this afternoon, hugging a pile of music while jogging from a rehearsal to a lesson. Students carrying various instruments hustled past me, their rubber soles squeaking loudly on the freshly waxed floors. Bulletin boards were lined with new rehearsal schedules and announcements of upcoming concerts. Professors cheerily greeted me back, as today was the first day of classes since December. A general feeling of goodwill toward mankind pervaded me as a new semester commenced.
Each semester since we moved to the North Country, I weigh afresh the ballast of working outside of the home. My situation is ideal: I say yes to the projects that appeal to me and decline the ones that are demanding without being rewarding. I like the students and the atmosphere. Some of the professors have become good friends; I enjoy their camaraderie. There is usually a nice mix of music on my plate: some pieces are old favorites, others are new challenges. The extra money is definitely a plus. But every minute of commitment takes me away from hearth and home, where my true calling lies. I feel the tug whenever I glance at the industrial clock on the wall, a tug that has been familiar since the babes were in arms. (They are far past that stage, as most of you know.) But when the clock strikes four (or two or six, whatever the case may be) I still make like a bee to the hive.
The gifts and abilities that have been entrusted to me need to sift down into their rightful places, and their places change as the seasons change. At times, the pursuits to which I am called seem better entrusted to someone more qualified! During which times I inform God,"You know what I am really good at? Playing the piano. Can't I do that instead?" Other moments, I seem to coast on wheels down Easy Street. These seasons are welcome, but they can breed an independence in me that isn't healthy. Carrying on without heavenly assistance is a dangerous venture.
Whenever I am brave enough to ask God to stretch me, He always does. I am better for it; more suited for the things He sees down the road. He asks me to lay aside my reliance on natural gifts and talents. He invites me practice reaching heavenward.
No need to check the roster. That class is offered every semester.

Friday, January 19, 2007

things that scare me and things that don't

As I posted earlier in the week, there will be no more 24 viewings for this girl. Voluntarily subjecting myself to an hour of terror and violence in the name of "entertainment" just doesn't ring true for me, even though our hero, Jack Bauer, continues to exemplify honor, patriotism, and self-sacrifice. (Not to mention the super-human ability to go without a shower, shave, nap, or even granola bar.) Good-bye, 24. I'll hear all about you from other, braver members of my household. From now on, it will be enough thrill to drive my hubby's black suburban; his very own "Jack Bauer-mobile".

We went to the movies last evening for something more up my alley: Charlotte's Web. It was rated G, which is about my speed. Another teen, who shall remain anonymous to protect his reputation, enthusiastically joined us. We loved it. And just to demonstrate WHAT A BABY I am, I will admit to having a bad dream about it last night. It went like this: A large spider (looking suspiciously like Charlotte) had to be disposed of by me, with emergency back up provided by #1 Son. This gives you an inkling of how I handle shows like 24...

The point of this revealing post? My continual amazement that God calls me to do things that require fearlessness. Despite a natural disposition that veers 180 degrees from all things risky or creepy, I regularly don the equipment of Romans chapter 6 and head courageously into the fray. I shout brave and righteous war-cries from under the shadow of my Big Brother's shield. I stomp ahead without second-guessing myself, matching His footsteps all the way, knowing that the battle belongs to Him.
Pretty neat for the girl who watches scary movies from between her fingers, huh?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

double dose

We met on the stage at church (which makes perfect sense when you know that our church is housed in an old school...). She strapped on her electric guitar. He tuned up his bass. He adjusted the drum set and chose his sticks. She brought a paper cup of water to her place at the microphone and warbled a few bars of warm-up. These are some of my favorite people for sure, and we opened in prayer (good idea) before we rocked the house for 3 hours. We cranked out honky-tonk, blues, rock-'n-roll, country (heaven help me), and other 50's-era styles in preparation for a Saturday gig: a 25th Wedding Anniversary Celebration in honor of dear friends. And although the genre was bit of a stretch for my classically-trained fingers, I even attempted a Jerry Lee Lewis imitation. For the uninitiated, this move involves elbows and feet.
So it wasn't exactly chamber music. So I had to play an electric piano, not an elegant Steinway. Never mind that we were sight-reading for the most part and that the lyrics included words such as baby, dreaming, lonely, and "stupid cupid". It was fun. Fun, fun, fun.

Sometimes ya just need a dose of fun.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


no more 24 for me.....!

Monday, January 15, 2007

the power of God

He is nine years old. After only a few minutes in the water, his white chin was trembling. His freckled face was pale and peaked, and I wondered whether he might faint or get sick. Yes, the water was warm. Yes, his pastor stood protectively beside him, bible in hand. Yes, his mother hovered at the edge of the platform with a blue bath towel in her arms, ready to enfold him when he emerged from the water. But when I saw him shivering and chattering, I wanted to rescue him.
"Hey," I interjected in my imagination. "What do you think you are doing, letting this little boy stand up to his neck in a dark, watery tank of tepid water?" A small crowd had gathered at the chancel rail. The pastor intoned scripture that spoke of obedience and the wages of sin. An attentive and fervent young face tilted upward, drinking in each verse.
My motherly instinct was swept aside by the light in his eyes. When invited, he shared his convictions simply yet clearly. Words such as savior, sins, repentance, and follow Him all the days of my life reached over the pulpit stage and into the ears of anyone lingering in the back pew. The quavering voice grew stronger as he talked.
"Josiah, I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."
And the tears came over me, as they most always do. Later, after I embraced this dear young man and felt the cool damp of his red hair on my shoulder, I held him at arm's length to look him in the eye.
"Josiah, someday when you are in a far off land, can I come to visit you?" He nodded knowingly, wisely, and innocently.
To see the Cross reflected on a person's life is a wondrous thing.

"For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." ( 1 Corinthians 1:18)

Friday, January 12, 2007

no playing hooky

Homeschool is our game around here. And we play it seriously.

In these mid-winter days, these long, gray days that stretch into the horizon like the trees in our back hedgerow, we rise and lounge with books. We listen to the Old Testament on CD, hardly minding the scrupulous detail of the building of the sanctuary in the desert; the workings in gold, silver, and bronze; the melodious lists of blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams' skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrance incense, onyx stones and setting stones, for the ephod and the breastpiece.
We discuss a new book and DVD about Ancient Egypt; how one archeologist's time-line condenses the Dynasties to conform with biblical accounts and asserts that the Female Pharaoh, Hatshupset, is none other but the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba may have been Solomon's sister-in-law. With a little coaxing, this is interesting to us.
We learn about the Armenian Holocaust. Two biographical novels are assigned, both are set in 1915 in Turkey. In between our trips to the mall, skating parties, and daily chores, we consider that people much like us endured such atrocities. Other people, also much like us, committed them. This commentary on mankind illustrates the truth of many a scripture....
Every morning, I engage in my least favorite chore: correct math lessons. The little darlings engage in their least favorite chore: doing math.
#1 Son researches the eight empires that have historically ruled the land of Palestine. #1 Daughter employs creative non-fiction to tell the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
At this very moment, #1 Son is working on a house design for his dad. (They hope to begin building an apartment complex in the spring.) At this very moment, #1 daughter is rolling out of bed. Her whole head hurts from the spacers that the orthodontist inserted on Wednesday.
Our scheduled Titus Mountain Ski-Trip is cancelled. The ski-resort is closed! And as I survey the above list, I generously declare NO SCHOOL at the Hull Homeschool Academy. Note: I would never declare no learning now, would I ?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

kickin' it up a notch

My taste buds have been craving something different as of late. The dreary, wimpy winter we are experiencing, coupled with the ho-hum choice (not to mention steep price) of fresh veggies at our local market has inspired me to get radically creative. Here is a sample of my better experiments:

-Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Carrots
(thanks to the Sinclair family)
Toss cubed sweet potato and halved baby carrots with olive oil. Roast at 350 degrees in a shallow pan, tossing occasionally, until slightly tender. Add diced garlic and fresh rosemary for the last 20 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

-Stir-Fried Brussel Sprouts
Trim and halve fresh brussel sprouts. Par-boil in salted water until just tender. Drain. Stir-fry with spicy sesame oil and soy sauce.

-Creamy Spinach Pie
This recipe involves spinach and fillo dough layered with feta cheese and an egg-milk mixture. It is a Turkish recipe that reminds me of a vegetable lasagna. A new family favorite!

-Zucchini Fritters
Featured on tonight's menu. I'm not sure how they will turn out, as the creative juices haven't kicked in yet. (Something along the lines of shredded zucchini, carrot, onion, sharp cheese, and a biscuit-batter, though.)

-Stuffed Mushrooms
Any way, any time, baby. Stuff with whatever is handy: chopped veggies, ham, fresh bread crumbs, feta/blue cheese or parmesan. Top with more bread crumbs and a splash of white wine. Bake at 375 degrees until bubbling. Heaven.

Who said vegetables have to be healthy?

Any inventive short-order cooks want to add to this list? The mouths at 3108 will surely appreciate it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

church promo

(Attention: this post is not meant to be an advertisement for my church. Any superlatives/hyperboles/excess/exaggeration or effusive discourse are to be construed as the results of the author's 25 years of familiarity with her subject.)

I love my church.

I loved my first class in this round of Sunday School: Colossians. I loved the teaching style and descriptive language of our teacher, a dear friend. I loved sitting behind a wise-guy, next to my husband, and in front of a history buff who has a heart for the Muslims. It will be an interesting and colorful class!
I loved canteen, which offers up fresh gourmet coffee and a snack between Sunday School and the main service. I loved spying the engagement ring on the hand of a lovely lady, whose eyes matched the sparkle of her diamond.
I am a huge fan of our worship teams, even when they rock too hard for my taste and the gym floor shakes from pushing the pastorally-prescribed decibel limit. These puny issues don't bother God, as demonstrated by His insistence on showing up in a big way for every service.
I loved seeing one couple honored for their years of commitment to our youth. Two hundred people stood spontaneously when our pastor commended them. I loved seeing as many hands that would fit (and then some) touch and bless another couple as they step into a new ministry. Young people prayed fervently and unreservedly for them. No one was in a hurry.
I loved watching our pastor when his sermon was interrupted by a disturbance in the congregation. Someone needed prayer. So we stopped and prayed.
I loved hearing the nervous laughter when the lapel mike died in the middle of a strong scriptural pronouncement. I recall it was during the reading of Hebrews 2:1:
"For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it."
Funny. I loved watching the sound team scramble and dash like maniacs all over the sanctuary. (#1 Son was among them.)
I loved the challenge from the pulpit: "What has God been speaking to you lately?" and the follow-up: "Tell somebody about it. Right now."
I loved seeing how the babies were dressed, some in outfits that scream "Christmas gift from Grandma".
I loved the insert with the list of prayer needs followed by the financial needs of a number of church members. Some of our church-family are facing extreme difficulties but they will not face them alone.
I loved the last-minute invitations thrown out for sharing dinner, dessert, and Sunday afternoon football.

I love my church.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


A view of our front room. Since the New Year, we rearranged the furniture!
Ana with Willow. Willow has foaled twice for us. She was much too wild to ride when we brought her home 3 years ago, but now Ana is riding her regularly!
Christmas Eve service at our church. The Service of Lessons & Carols was inspiring!
It was post-Christmas, and we were still decorating cookies! I recommend it as very theraputic.

Friday, January 05, 2007

spiritual warm-ups

A prayer from The Valley of Vision:

The Personal Touch

Thou Great I AM,
I acknowledge and confess that all things
come of thee-
life, breath, happiness, advancement,
sight, touch, hearing,
goodness, truth, beauty-
all that makes existence amiable.
In the spiritual world also I am dependent
entirely upon thee.
Give me grace to know more of my need of grace;
Show me my sinfulness that I may willingly
confess it;
Reveal to me my weakness that I may know
my strength in thee.
I thank thee for any sign of penitence;
give me more of it;
My sins are black and deep,
and rise from a stony, proud,
self-righteous heart;
Help me to confess them with mourning, regret,
with no pretence to merit or excuse;
I need healing,
Good Physician, here is scope for thee,
come and manifest thy power;
I need faith;
Thou who hast given it me, maintain, strengthen,
increase it,
Center it upon the Savior's work,
upon the majesty of the Father,
upon the operations of the Spirit;
Work it in me now that I may never doubt thee
as the truthful, mighty, faithful God.
Then I can bring my heart to thee
full of love, gratitude, hope, joy.
May I lay at thy feet these fruits grown
in thy garden,
love thee with a passion that can never cool,
believe in thee with confidence that never
hope in thee with an expectation that can never
be dim,
delight in thee with a rejoicing that cannot
be stifled,
glorify thee with the highest of my powers,
burning, blazing, glowing, radiating, as from
thy own glory.

I would credit its author, but the book only lists the fourteen Puritan men from whose works these prayers were selected. Knowing the Puritan predilection toward meekness and humility, we can assume the authors would heartily approve of the anonymity.
The line, "Good Physician, here is scope for thee" makes me chuckle. It leads me to wonder: did the author intend this ironic understatement as true, but also a bit of a joke? I'd like to think so. No one that prays such rich, heavenly-focused prayers could be a total sourpuss. Sure, I see that he wants to confess his sin with "self-loathing", but he doesn't wallow there. Penitence serves as the gateway to love, gratitude, hope, and joy.
Careful contemplation of these prayers has brought order and clarity to my own God-ward pleas. Jumping daily from such springboards has been a great exercise for the new year!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

give & take

One mild evening in December, I met a friend (of #32 fame) for coffee & conversation at the First Crush Bistro. It is a way cool establishment with lilac walls and an eclectic menu that features "tapas". She ordered the Maryland crab cakes. I ordered their homemade bread, toasted. These humble snacks were enough to accompany our rich conversation about what God is doing in our lives.
Friend #32 brought a brightly wrapped gift to the table. Upon opening it, I was momentarily speechless.
"How did you know I wanted this book?" I queried, hardly believing my eyes. "I never told anyone about this book!"
In my lap was a leather-bound edition of a collection of Puritan prayers called "The Valley of Vision". As far as I knew, it was an obscure little book that no one I knew owned. I had only seen it reviewed in an educational catalogue -the kind of catalogue that generates a kind of greed in me for things that aren't necessities, but are intensely desirable nonetheless.
I don't know who was more ecstatic: the recipient or the giver of this thoughtful gift. She bought it for me on her trip to California when her sister-in-law recommended it. "The Giver" took one look at the archaic and poetic language and said, "I'll bet my kayaking-partner would really enjoy this!" How right she was.
Perhaps tomorrow I will post an excerpt. Right now, I must help #1 Son learn some difficult passages in his violin music.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

hidden vitamins

For most kids, today is their first day "back to school". The Hull Homeschool Academy also commences our Winter Semester after two fun-filled weeks of holiday activities and van-loads of company. Two very reluctant scholars dragged themselves out of bed at the unheard-of hour of 8 a.m., ladled cold cereal into their mouths, and propped themselves up on the couch to listen to the Book of Exodus on CD. This was followed by a reading from The Hittite Warrior (a historical novel from the era of the Book of Judges) accompanied by pencil-sketching by aforesaid scholars. We reviewed the book Blood Brothers (a biographical story of a Palestinian Christian working for peace in the Israel) and also where we left off in A Christian Family's Guide to the Middle East. Deftly changing the subject, we did a brief science experiment to demonstrate refracted light. From there, this stick-wielding schoolmarm doled out math and science assignments plus copious amounts of further reading. As Daughter #1 exclaimed vehemently as she perused the chalkboard: "Hmmm. We are DOING SCHOOL TODAY."
Oh yeah, just for fun we began the DVD Unwrapping the Pharaohs (How Egyptian Archaeology Confirms the Biblical Timeline). This hardcover book and bonus DVD, which was under the Christmas tree (thanks to the many educational catalogues that Mrs. Santa Claus thumbs through) will hopefully spark interest in the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Maybe, just maybe, we can manage a family trip there soon. (Did you know that they have a complete Egyptian temple on display there that one can walk through and touch? And that there is a door over which a Christian symbol is carved through which the earliest converts to Christianity entered when they went to worship there?)
Oh, I am always conniving. Maybe that terminology is a tad too strong. Would you call a mom who sneaks spinach in the soup or zucchini in the banana bread "conniving"? Any way to sneak in some learning around here is justifiable in my book.
I just remembered that I have some zucchini in the salad drawer. This mom will continue her subterfuge in the kitchen, much to her family's gastronomic satisfaction.

Monday, January 01, 2007

to all who live at 3108:

Who wants to lend a hand around here? You can even pick your chore. Your reward? You get your own bed back tonight.

-A very dry Christmas tree, fringed in drifts of pine needles, needs to be attended to. Drag the storage boxes out of the back shed and get crackin'. A sad but necessary chore.

-mounds of bedding and damp towels await their turn in our new front-loading washing machine. (At least the rows of hair gel, backpacks, and assorted unfamiliar footwear have disappeared from the bathrooms, hallways, and mudroom.)

-foil-covered leftovers dot the fridge. Some are way past human-consumption. Bonus: anything still good, you get first dibs on. This is not a job for the faint-of-heart.

sugary shards of gingerbread house have made their way throughout the living room. Someone took a butter knife and busted the whole thing to smithereens in a frenzied snack-attack. Report to duty with the vacuum with the power head in hand, please.

-a cell phone was left behind that belongs to a person bound for Tennessee. It will probably ring unanswered for a few days. No chore here except to make sure it gets returned. (That would be Friend #7's business.)

-Go to the grocery store. Actually, I call that one because I get to be alone in the car.